The pitchforks are out after the Oilers 0-2 start and a lot of the anger is being directed at Todd McLellan. There is a large portion of this fanbase that has completely soured on the veteran bench boss, and in a lot of fans’ minds, he needs to be fired.
McLellan has spent three full seasons coaching the team and in that time the Oilers have gone 114-109-23, and, as we all know, they’ve made the playoffs just once.
A pessimistic fan will say that it’s unacceptable for a coach who has Connor McDavid on his roster to miss the playoffs more often than not. Someone with a more favourable view of the coach might say that McLellan can coach what’s in front of him, and what’s been in front of him over the past few seasons has been depleted by a below-average General Manager.
The debate as to whether or not Todd McLellan should still be the Head Coach is red hot, so let’s take a closer look.
THE CASE FOR TODD McLELLAN
CONSISTENCY: We lived through the decade of darkness. We all hated the coaching carousel. From Quinn to Renney to Kruger to Eakins to Nelson, we should be at the point were another coaching change makes us sick.
Given how last season went, is anyone honestly convinced that a different coach would have produced a different result? I’m not sure that would have been the case.
Todd is a veteran coach who has been through a lot of tough stretches in his career. I’m not sure I’m convinced that there’s a better option out there.
WHEN TO DO IT: A lot of people are saying that a poor October should spell the end of the line for McLellan, but I’m not sure that the Oilers season can be deemed “over” with a below average first month. A lot of the team’s opponents are from the Eastern Conference, and of them are from the Pacific Division.
November will be a much more crucial month. The teams last seven games are against Calgary, Vegas, San Jose, Anaheim, LA, Dallas, and LA once again. The Oilers, under McLellan, have played the Pacific Division very well going 36-17-5 over the past two seasons.
Todd should stay until this team gets the chance to play important divisional games.
THE ROSTER ISN’T GOOD: As I said, Todd can only coach what’s in front of him. Peter Chiarelli has depleted so much talent from this roster, and injury has taken a reliable defenseman in Andrej Sekera. McLellan can’t go out and just find skilled wingers and reliable defenseman.
All he can do is make the best with what he has, and most will agree that what he has simply isn’t very good.
THE MONEY: This point is going to rub a lot fans the wrong way but it is a legitimate consideration for the organization. McLellan has term and significant money left on his deal. It’s becoming known that money isn’t exactly free flowing around the organization. I’m not sure the higher ups would approve a firing of an expensive Head Coach.
One way around this would be a promotion for either Gulutzan or Viveiros and an assumption that there’s no clause in their deal that increases their pay if named Head Coach.
THE CASE AGAINST TODD McLELLAN
SICK OF THE BLENDER: Fans are annoyed at how quickly McLellan will change up his lines. It hasn’t been bad yet this year, but again, it’s only been two games. I’m of the belief that it takes time for players to develop true chemistry with one another and when they’re constantly being shuffled around, it’s difficult for them to get comfortable.
SLOW STARTS = LACK OF MOTIVATION: At the NHL level, I don’t think it’s a coach’s responsibility to motivate his players. These guys are pros and they should be ready to go, from the second the puck drops, every single night.
Still, some fans use the continued slow starts as a knock on McLellan. I believe it’s unfair, but that’s just my opinion.
TODD’S GOLDEN BOYS: At times it appears as though players like Drake Caggiula, Milan Lucic, and Kris Russell can do no wrong. They can cost goals, turnover pucks, take bad penalties, and the coaching staff seems to just keep rolling them onto the ice.
While there are players like Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, and even Ryan Strome in my mind, can have two good games, have one mental lapse, and be punished for it.
I can see why this frustrates fans because you all watch the games. You can see how these players are performing and when the coach makes decisions that seem to be more personal based than performance-based it can be frustrating.
I laid out my case both for and against Todd McLellan, and I’m not sure where I sit. If the team only wins twice in October, I can’t see Todd surviving it. There’s a reason he is currently the betting odds favourite to be the first NHL Head Coach fired this season.
Looking at the schedule and seeing the bulk of Pacific Division opponents at the end of the month, I would like to see Todd stick around until after that stretch, no matter what.
If they start slow, but then beat the crap out of their own division, then they’re still in decent shape. If they turn things around before that, even better. But if they falter in October, then get beat up by their divisional opponents, then I would firmly say it’s time for Todd McLellan to be relieved of his duties.
What say you? Is any of this McLellan’s fault? Should they fire him now? Give him time? Let me know!